What is Swatting and Why You Need an Attorney If You’re Accused of It

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law

Swatting is a prank that can result in serious consequences. You “swat” someone when you place a 911 call and report an emergency situation at their home. Past swatting incidents have given reports of active shooters or hostage situations at a particular location. In response to the report, law enforcement officials, usually a SWAT team, descend on the location and carry out tactical measures to deal with the situation. Usually, an unsuspecting victim is caught unaware as law enforcement bursts into his or her house.

Why Do People Commit Swatting Pranks?

Swatting is done for many reasons, usually by people too young or too uninformed to understand the consequences of their actions. They are doing it as a prank or for revenge, not realizing or caring about the resources, time, or money that goes into the tactical measures that must be taken in these situation. Unfortunately, something that might seem funny becomes a serious legal matter. Notifying police of a fake emergency is a class 3 misdemeanor and can result in up to six months in jail, as well as steep fines that could add up to thousands of dollars.

In some cases, celebrities have been the target for swatting calls. Some of the calls used caller ID spoofing that made it look as if the call was really coming from the celebrity’s home. Several celebrities have been victims of swatting in recent years, including Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest, Chris Brown, Selena Gomez, and Tom Cruise. <a This story from CNN talks about some of the other celebrities who have been victims of swatting.

What’s surprising to many is how easy it is to pull off a swatting prank. One 12 year old was able to swat both Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher. Since celebrities are frequently the target of stalkers and crazed fans, police take it seriously when they are notified these people are in danger – the likelihood a celebrity would be targeted is considered greater than a regular person being taken hostage.

Reducing How Often Swatting Occurs

Some police departments, LAPD included, have decided to no longer issue press releases when swatting events occur. This is done to prevent others from calling in false reports in an effort to receive publicity. There is also legislation underway in California to increase the fines swatters face – to as much as $10,000.

The major problem with swatting isn’t the risk it poses to celebrities or the embarrassment it causes everyone involved – it’s the wasted resources. Dozens of cops head to the location where an event is reported and while they are dealing with a false report, other crimes are being committed elsewhere. Not to mention the time it takes to write up paperwork and deal with the aftermath of a false report.

If you are contemplating a swatting prank, don’t do it. And if you or your child is arrested for swatting, you need to contact an attorney immediately. You will likely be charged with False Reporting, something police take very seriously. Many law enforcement agencies have already stated they will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law when swatting occurs in an effort to deter people from calling in false reports.

If you have been accused of swatting, David Lindsey can help. For more information or to speak with someone about the allegations against you, contact David to schedule a consultation.

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